Digital mobile payment platform Apple Pay last week silently went live in South Africa, with at least three banks supporting the service.
This is the first time the service is being launched in Africa.
How Apple Pay works
Apple Pay is the smartphone manufacturer’s payment and digital wallet system. Users of the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch can use the feature to pay online on various apps and at Tap and Pay NFC terminals. A bank card needs to be connected to the service.
Apple Pay allows users to load a supported banking card and use their Apple device – such as an iPhone or cellular Apple Watch – to make a contactless payment at supported NFC-based terminals.
Banks supporting Apple Pay
Following the launch of the service in Africa, three South African banks are listed on Apple’s website as partners supporting Apple Pay.
They are Absa, Discovery and Nedbank; the first two support only Visa cards, while Nedbank supports Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards.
Apple Pay is here, and it’s brought to you by Discovery Bank. Apple users with a Discovery Bank card can now enjoy a safer and more convenient way to pay. Plus, they will continue enjoying all the rewards they usually get with a Discovery Bank card. The future of Banking. Now pic.twitter.com/R03alIsY6g
— @Discovery_SA (@Discovery_SA) March 30, 2021
According to Business Insider, First National Bank, one of the nation’s big five banks and the oldest, is also working to make it available after it missed out on the service.
The service is also not available to FNB, Investec, and Standard Banks.
An Investec customer on Twitter shared a screenshot showing that he received a “Your Issuer Does not Yet Offer Support for This Card” message.
FNB Card CEO Chris Labuschagne who spoke to one of the local dailies said the bank was working with Apple and looked forward to bringing Apple Pay to its customers.
Since it was released in October 2014, the service has grown in popularity in North America and Europe for the convenience it affords users within the iOS ecosystem.
It is integrated with hundreds of banks in those regions including big banks like J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, HSBC and Deutsche Bank.
There have been various signs over the last few months that the service would be coming to banks, including mentions of it on the websites of Absa and Discovery Bank.
Apple Pay customers’ experience
On Tuesday last week, several South Africans reported that they managed to load their banking cards to the Apple Wallet and successfully make payments with the service.
Discovery Bank account holders started reporting through social media that they were able to use the service after one user spotted ads from Discovery Bank for the Apple Pay platform on a Google Search.
Users shared screenshots showing the final step in the Apple Wallet process with their Discovery Bank cards successfully added.
Two of the Discovery Bank cards confirmed to be supported included the Gold Debit and Signature Debit account cards.
The launch of Apple Pay in South Africa speaks to Apple’s intention to increase its penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa where the adoption of digital payments has increased since the start of the pandemic.
With South Africa setting the ball rolling, it remains to be seen where next Apple Pay becomes available in Africa. Nigeria and Kenya would appear plausible destinations based on smartphone and internet penetration metrics, but it would depend on where Apple finds suitable bank partners to power users’ cards.
Android currently dominates the mobile operating system market share in South Africa with 83.71% while iOS is at 15.84%. Across the continent, smartphones by Tecno, itel and Infinix (all produced by Transsion, the Chinese manufacturer) dominate shipments for being cheaper alternatives to Apple and Samsung’s more expensive brands.
Apple Pay joins Samsung Pay in South Africa in the market of contactless payment options. The latter launched in August 2018 to support payments for users of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphones. Samsung Pay partners the three banks currently available on Apple Pay, and includes others like FNB, Investec and Standard Bank.